Netanyahu: Arms on seized ship came from Iran via Syria
Israel Navy seized ship which IDF said contained 'tons' of concealed weapons destined for 'use of terror organization operating in Gaza Strip.'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that weapons seized by the Israel Navy from a ship bound for Egypt earlier in the day had come from Iran, via Syria, and were intended for militants in Gaza.
"We are currently collecting information and the one thing that is certain is that the weapons are from Iran with a relay station in Syria," Netanyahu said.
"Last night, I granted permission to take over a ship for which we had the basis to think that there were weapons on it destined for Gaza," Netanyahu said. "The source of the weapons is Iran, which continues to try to arm terrorist forces against Israel."
"It is our right and duty to stop the smuggling of these weapons," the prime minister said, adding that all nations connected to the ship had been updated on the situation.
The Israel Defense Forces' Spokesman said that "Victoria" had set out from the Lattakia port in Syria and sailed to Mersin, Turkey. It was seized while on its way from Turkey for the El-Arish port in Egypt.
Turkey is not responsible for the ship "in any aspect," the IDF said.
Elite troops from the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit took control of the ship without a struggle when it was around 200 nautical miles off Israel's coast, and towed it to the port in Ashdod. According to the IDF Spokesman, the ship was carrying "tons" of concealed weapons destined for "the use of terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip."
The IDF said that with the ship anchored in Ashdod, its contents would be thoroughly examined and its crew questioned. Although the ship had set sail from Turkey, it was flying a Liberian flag.
A joint statement from the IDF and Foreign Ministry said that German officials have been alerted to the ship's seizure, as the ship belonged to a German company. Liberian officials have also been alerted. The operating company of the ship was from France, and thus French officials were also made aware of the situation.
This is not the first time that Israel has seized a ship carrying concealed weapons. The most famous incident was in 2003, when the Israeli military seized the "Karine A", a vessel with 50 tons of missiles, mortars, rifles and ammunition destined for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.